Somewhere amongst the tumbleweeds and windmills of Pioneertown, California is a saloon. The place used to be a stage for westerns back in the 1940s and ’50s. At least that’s what Wikipedia told me before I headed out to Pappy and Harriet’s.
Specifically, they describe the place as a “hipster, honkytonk, barbecue restaurant and a music venue.” They mean hipster in the classical sense: as a reference to the “hep” cats of the bebop era. Gotta admit though…a faux saloon-turned-real music venue? It’s so unique, so isolated, so cool that describing it as anything other than “hipster” would be an injustice.
It was also freezing, which made me question my decision to drive 130 miles outside Los Angeles for Simian Mobile Disco. I’m a fan — that much should be obvious. Attack Decay Sustain Release is probably the most accessible techno album I’ve ever heard, especially if you’ve already cut your teeth on electronic music. House fiends would do quite well to check it out.
Simian Mobile Disco’s latest works have doubled down on the techno in a more refined, stripped-down fashion. Unpatterns strays into the world of minimalism quite frequently, but the duo never drops the beat and they don’t lose the listener. They’ve earned my ear. That’s the general vibe I got from other partiers as well later on that night.
But before all that was Earth. Undoubtedly, they’re the slowest band I’ve ever had the pleasure of freezing my nuts off to. They played on a time scale that’s probably on par with the shifting of the tectonic plates. Getting into them was a bit of a struggle. Their epic slowness and the chilly temps made listening to them more difficult that it should’ve been. People were rocking out, albeit in a very restrained way.
That changed as soon as Simian Mobile Disco took the stage to perform (and record!) their new album, Whorl. The stage wasn’t a huge production. They just had some fog and spotlights, which worked to great effect. For the most part, it seemed the recording went off without a hitch. The crowd danced and jostled throughout the whole thing, in part to stay warm, I’m sure.
My first impression? Whorl is a further refinement of Simian Mobile Disco’s style. It’s a similar sound to Unpatterns — they didn’t just jump ship and start doing EDM. I’m looking forward to doing a track-by-track listen later on when the record is released. At the end of their set, they did do a rendition of “Sleep Deprivation” on their single-synth-per-person setup.
So, should you listen to Whorl? The answer is probably yes, if you enjoy techno. There’s nothing in there that will convince a diehard hater to come around, but it should also serve as a listenable entry way to a sometimes-obtuse genre. I enjoyed it in the desert. I can only imagine how much I’d enjoy it inside.
As for Pappy and Harriet’s? The best way to enjoy this venue is to stay the night nearby. The fact is it’s far. The average Angeleno could do what I did and just drive there and back, but that’s like driving to Coachella for one set and back. Not advised.
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